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Debt-to-Income Ratio

An individual’s monthly debt payment compared to his or her monthly gross income

What is the Debt-to-Income Ratio?

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a metric used by creditors to determine the ability of a borrower to pay their debts and make interest payments. The debt-to-income ratio compares an individual’s monthly debt payment to his or her monthly gross income.

 

Understanding the Debt-to-Income Ratio

The debt-to-income ratio is of utmost important to creditors that are considering providing financing to an individual. A higher ratio is unfavorable for creditors to see, as it indicates that a higher proportion of an individual’s income goes towards monthly debt payments.

For example, a DTI ratio of 20% means that 20% of the individual’s monthly gross income is used to servicing monthly debt payments. The maximum acceptable DTI ratio varies depending on the lender. As a guideline, it is preferable to achieve a ratio that is lower than 36%.

 

Debt-to-Income Ratio in the Credit Analysis Process

The debt-to-income ratio is used as part of the credit analysis process to determine the credit risk of an individual. It is important to note that, for example, an individual with a DTI ratio of 15% does not necessarily possess less credit risk than an individual with a DTI ratio of 25%. The DTI ratio only forms part of the credit riskiness of an individual; a thorough credit analysis must be conducted to correctly determine the credit risk of an individual.

 

Formula for the Debt-to-Income Ratio

 

Debt-to-Income Ratio

 

Where:

  • Monthly Debt Payments refer to monthly bills such as rent/mortgage, car insurance, health insurance, credit cards, student loans, medical bills, dental bills, car loan, child support payments, and other payments.
  • Gross Income is the income of an individual before tax and other deductions.

 

Practical Example

An individual currently pays $2,000 a month for their mortgage, $100 for car insurance, and $500 in other debts. If the monthly gross income of this individual is $4,500, what is the debt-to-income ratio?

DTI Ratio = ($2,000 + $100 + $500) / $4,500 x 100 = 57.78%

 

Methods to Decrease the Debt-to-Income Ratio

 

1. Decrease monthly debt payments

By minimizing the monthly debt payments, an individual can decrease their debt-to-income ratio. For example, in a student loan, an individual has the option of repaying their principal debt to reduce the amount of interest charged.

Consider an outstanding $50,000 student loan with a monthly interest rate of 1%. Scenario one involves an individual who is not repaying their principal debt, while scenario two involves an individual who has paid down $30,000 of their principal debt.

 

Debt-to-Income Ratio - Scenarios

 

As illustrated above, as an individual pays down more of their principal debt, the monthly interest payments decrease.

 

2. Increase gross income

By increasing the gross income, an individual can decrease their debt-to-income ratio. The method is self-explanatory – due to the fact that the gross income is in the denominator of the ratio, an individual with a higher income would lower their debt-to-income ratio.

Consider two scenarios with a monthly debt payment of $1,500 each. However, the gross monthly income for scenario one is $3,000, while the gross monthly income for scenario two is $5,000. As such, the debt-to-income ratio would be as follows:

DTI Ratio (Scenario one) = $1,500 / $3,000 x 100 = 50%

DTI Ratio (Scenario two) = $1,500 / $5,000 x 100 = 30%

 

Related Readings

CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and developing your knowledge base, please explore the additional relevant resources below:

  • Credit Rating
  • Mortgage
  • Loan Covenant
  • Pretax Income

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